It was just one sequence of bricks and boards, but it adequately summed up Thursday night for the Miami Heat and the third part of their “Big Three.” As the Celtics played volleyball off the backboard with each other while going for a loose rebound, TNT’s Reggie Miller asked: “Where is Chris Bosh? Where is Chris Bosh in all this?”
For the second time, Bosh came up short against the one team for which these Heat absolutely need him to be tall. His 15 points (6-10 FG) and seven rebounds weren’t bad on paper, and in fact exceeded his season averages so far (14.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Bosh was better last night than he was on Opening Night against Boston, when he had eight points and eight boards on 3-for-11 shooting. But in terms of making an impact, Bosh was mostly silent. His most notable moment Thursday came in the first half, when he stood flat-footed and posed for YouTube while Rajon Rondo dunked on him.
Nine games into the season, when it’s become clear one of Miami’s biggest weaknesses is toughness and production in the paint, Bosh isn’t playing up to the All-Star standard he set in Toronto. He’s been conspicuous in his struggles against the Celtics, as well as in the Heat’s other two losses — Bosh totaled one rebound in the loss to New Orleans, and got dominated by Utah’s Paul Millsap to the tune of 46 points. It’s no surprise that Bosh’s stats have dipped in Miami, but the hype of the summer promised he would be better than this.
How has this stretch affected his standing in the hierarchy of the NBA’s top power forwards? With newcomers like Blake Griffin and J.J. Hickson rising in the ranks, and vets like Millsap and David Lee thriving in new roles with their teams, Bosh’s spot isn’t safe. My Top 10 power forwards in the League today:
1. DIRK NOWITZKI, Mavericks — Not the traditional four, but still the best in the game. Dirk (23.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg) destroyed KG down the stretch in Dallas’ win over Boston, and dumped 35 points on Denver in a win. Age (32) is nothing but a number; more like a nightly scoring goal for Nowitzki.
2. PAU GASOL, Lakers — During Lakers/Nuggets last night, Mike Fratello asked no one in particular if Gasol is the greatest “foreign player” of all-time. Steve Kerr quickly said “Yes,” before he remembered Hakeem Olajuwon was decent back in the back. But Gasol is up there. He’s playing center until Andrew Bynum gets back, but I’ve always seen him as a natural power forward.
3. AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE, Knicks — He’s playing center this week until Mike D’Antoni finds somebody who can play the five, but is penciled in as NY’s power forward. His field-goal shooting (45.7%) is a full 10 points down from last season, but Amar’e (21.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is showing more parts to his game that people didn’t give him credit for when he played with Steve Nash, like a three-point shot, ball-handling ability, and touch around the basket.
4. TIM DUNCAN, Spurs — Still the G.O.A.T. at the four, but his dominance is being doled out in shorter spurts now, like when he dusted off a vintage 25-point, 17-board, 11-for-13 performance to beat the Suns. Averaging 15.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks for the 6-1 Spurs.
5. KEVIN GARNETT, Celtics — Going into the season, everybody around Boston swore KG was in the best shape of his life and fully recovered from the knee problems. He’s lived up to those claims (15.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.7 spg) while being his same antagonistic self and QB’ing the C’s defense.
6. CHRIS BOSH, Heat — It’s not like he became less talented over the summer. The patient observer says “And Bosh” is still looking for his niche in a brand-new situation. Outside of All-Star/Olympic situations, I’m presuming he’s never been the third-best player on his team in his life. The short-sighted say he’s being exposed as not very good.
7. ZACH RANDOLPH, Grizzlies — You know it was tough for me to leave him out of the Top 5. I’ll blame it on his early-season tailbone injury. Z-Bo (16.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg) will climb back to his usual 20-and-10 when he gets healthy, and already has one 20-and-20 game under his belt this season.
8. LUIS SCOLA, Rockets — Between his FIBA World Championship run with Argentina and the early stages of this season, you could argue no PF is playing better than Scola (22.7 ppg, 11.4 rpg) right now.
9. CARLOS BOOZER, Bulls — Floors … don’t hit back. Has yet to make his debut for the Bulls, but Booz will make Derrick Rose’s life easier the moment he steps on the floor.
10. JOSH SMITH, Hawks — In a perfect world, Smith would play small forward and challenge LeBron as the most athletic/explosive three in the world. But the Hawks and/or Smith insist on making him a four, where he’s still pretty good. Assuming voters don’t want to look lazy by handing Dwight Howard another Defensive Player of the Year award, Smith is the current front-runner, averaging 3.2 blocks, 1.2 steals and 9.4 rebounds to go with 13.7 points per game.
Honorable mention — David West, LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, Lamar Odom, Elton Brand, Blake Griffin